The World, The Flesh And The Devil There are three major battlefronts in spiritual warfare and the New Testament calls these “the world, the flesh and the Devil”. First a few definitions:
The World – Greek “kosmos”, society organized in complete disregard of God. Babylon and Tyre are symbols of this worldliness. The “kosmos” literally means “what is constructed from it constituent parts” (Kittel) in this case ”human order” or ‘world order’ and implies that the World is a human construct., a system, with a hierarchy. The World is fallen, unredeemed creation setting up its own order in direct contradiction to the Kingdom of God. The contrast is so clear and absolute that whoever makes himself a “friend of the World” makes himself “an enemy of God”. (James 4;4). What we war against are evil world orders ruled by principalities and powers utterly hostile to God. This “World” is different from the general term world, which means humanity or society as in the sense of “God so loved the world”.
The World – leads us to make wrong alliances and pursue wrong objectives, to be short-term and pragmatic and to pursue a worldly kingdom rather than a spiritual kingdom. The world induces us to the pursuit of fame, wealth and human glory outside of the will and blessing and permission of God. When unsuccessful the World persecutes the saints so that Jesus said “in the world you will have tribulation”.
The Flesh –Greek – sarx The human body as the repository of sin and controlled by lusts that wage war with the Holy Spirit and which lead the believer astray from the will of God. (see Romans 7, Galatians 5:16-23). The NIV translates this as “sinful nature” to avoid connecting it to directly with the body which is created by God to be His temple, and which will eventually be redeemed and resurrected in glory. The body is not bad but the lusts that emanate from it and the sin that indwells it is evil, which is why the body needs to be redeemed.
The Flesh – leads us to satisfy right appetites in wrong ways or at wrong times and to prefer wrong and perverted appetites to righteous ones. Sexual immorality is just one aspect. The desire for justice can be turned by “the flesh” into murderous revenge and the desire to tell the truth; can be turned into gossip and slander. The flesh is extremely deceitful and enticing (Ephesians 4:22, Titus 3:3, James 1:14,15) and can fool us into thinking our actions are legitimate.
The Devil –Greek diabolos , the resister of God, Satan, the dragon of old, the accuser of the brethren. The head of the evil spirits, a very powerful demonic being, once a guardian cherub, now fallen, not a divinity but a powerful fallen angel. (See elsewhere in this book.)
The Devil – leads us to worship false gods, heed false prophets, use magic, pursue luck, fortune-telling and divination and to enter into demonic spiritual pacts and worship Satan rather than the living God. In orde rto trick believers the devil resorts to magic and false miracles, false doctrine and all manner of spiritual deception.
The World is overcome through faith ( 1 John 5:4,5) and through righteous living with godly priorities ( 1 John 2:15-17, Titus 2:12) which may involve separation from the powers and structures of the “kosmos” (James 1:27, 4:4).
The Flesh is overcome through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-18) and offering our bodies as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1,2). A key part of this is renewing the mind (Romans 12:1,2) and making sure it is set on the Spirit, and not on the flesh. (Romans 8:4-6).
The Devil is overcome by resisting Him (James 4:7) standing on the Word of God as Jesus did when tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11), standing firm in our faith (Revelation 12:11)and using our spiritual armory (Ephesians 6:10-18, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)